Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

With Hurricane Dorian impacting the Bahamas, and (maybe) taking aim at the East Coast, I thought I would remind people what the Saffir-Simpson scale is and how it works, because people who’ve never lived in the path of hurricanes seem somewhat confused on the issue.

As for the “maybe” part of taking aim at the East Coast. Click the image at the upper-right for a larger view of the recent models.

First off wind speed is “SUSTAINED WINDS.” It is not about gusts. Gusts will be significantly higher than sustained winds. 20 or 30 percent higher is not beyond the realm of possibility. I haven’t heard a Midwestern weather person talk about gusts above 70MPH and use the phrase “hurricane force” in a long time, but that is mostly because I now get all my weather information directly from NOAA, NWS, and NHC.

And there’s a humorous image at the bottom, because even in the face of “catastrophic damage” you need to smile.

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale Defined

Reference. There is an animation at that site showing the impacts on the “typical, frame-built house.”

Cat Sustained Winds Types of Damage Due to Hurricane Winds
1 74-95 mph
64-82 kt
119-153 km/h
Very dangerous winds will produce some damage: Well-constructed frame homes could have damage to roof, shingles, vinyl siding and gutters. Large branches of trees will snap and shallowly rooted trees may be toppled. Extensive damage to power lines and poles likely will result in power outages that could last a few to several days.
2 96-110 mph
83-95 kt
154-177 km/h
Extremely dangerous winds will cause extensive damage:
Well-constructed frame homes could sustain major roof and siding damage. Many shallowly rooted trees will be snapped or uprooted and block numerous roads. Near-total power loss is expected with outages that could last from several days to weeks.
3
(major)
111-129 mph
96-112 kt
178-208 km/h
Devastating damage will occur:
Well-built framed homes may incur major damage or removal of roof decking and gable ends. Many trees will be snapped or uprooted, blocking numerous roads. Electricity and water will be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.
4
(major)
130-156 mph
113-136 kt
209-251 km/h
Catastrophic damage will occur:
Well-built framed homes can sustain severe damage with loss of most of the roof structure and/or some exterior walls. Most trees will be snapped or uprooted and power poles downed. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.
5
(major)
157 mph or higher
137 kt or higher
252 km/h or higher
Catastrophic damage will occur:
A high percentage of framed homes will be destroyed, with total roof failure and wall collapse. Fallen trees and power poles will isolate residential areas. Power outages will last for weeks to possibly months. Most of the area will be uninhabitable for weeks or months.

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2 thoughts on “Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale

  1. Pingback: Hurricane Dorian Stationary Over Grand Bahama | 357 Magnum

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